Matt Kenseth came on late to win the 2013 Bojangles Southern 500. He overcame teammate Kyle Busch with just 12 laps to go to grab the win. Busch had led for 265 laps before relinquishing the lead.
The race was clean up until the 300th lap, but anyone who made comments about the lack of caution flags likely jinxed the race.
Kyle seemingly had this one wrapped up until his handling seemed to fail him late. Kenseth was there to pounce, and he gutted out a tough win.
The scene was pure NASCAR at the start of the race. Check out this tweet from NASCAR's official Twitter account.
Here's a look at the top 10 finishers from Sunday's race:
2013 Southern 500 Top 10 Results
|8||Juan Pablo Montoya||42|
|9||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88|
This was a great race for Gordon. Though he lost a brief lead he held just over mid-way through the race, a third-place finish in his 700h NASCAR run is a nice accomplishment for the legend.
Other Notable Results
|12||Martin Truex Jr||56|
*Click here to view full results from NASCAR.com.
The Busch's Dominate the Early Going
Kurt Busch got off to a great start. He was on a blistering place at Lap 50. He led the pack for the entire race up to this point with a slight edge over his brother Kyle.
L50 -- Kurt Busch had led all 50 laps under green of a relatively uneventful Southern 500 so far. 1.9-second lead on his brother. #nascar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 11, 2013
How fast is Kurt Busch's pace? In the first 50 laps, 23 cars fell a lap down. There are 20 cars on the lead lap with 317 laps left. #Nascar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 11, 2013
Kurt continued to control the pace early on. Kyle stayed in striking distance, but he couldn't overtake his older brother through the first 73 laps.
On Lap 74, Kyle passed Kurt to move into the top spot. Perhaps he was just biding his time, but he overcame a good gap after the first pit stop to take the lead.
The hard driving and banking seemed to almost ensure wreckage was coming at some point in the race.
Kenseth Makes His First Move
Kenseth was one of the drivers I expected to be a major factor here. He took the No. 20 car into second place, but Kyle maintained his lead after the second set of pit stops through 100 laps.
After an immaculately run race, the first caution flag appeared on the 125th lap due to debris on the track. It didn't disturb Kyle at all; he continued to lead the pack.
Off pit road, Busch's hold seemed unbreakable.
Kurt had fallen back significantly after firing away at the start from the pole position. But it appeared a Busch would still take home the win in Darlington.
Kyle Wards off a Wave of Challengers
Jeff Gordon, the man on his 700th NASCAR run, briefly took the lead at the 200th lap. He pitted a few laps earlier than most of the drivers, but by the 202nd lap, Kyle had regained the lead.
He was putting on one of the more dominant performances of the year.
As the race approached the 300-lap mark, the Sprint Cup standings leader Jimmie Johnson had moved into second place. The defending champion was sure to be heard from before this race was done, and though Kyle maintained his lead, Johnson was trying to apply some pressure.
Can Matt Kenseth catch Jimmie Johnson in the Sprint Cup standings?
The Caution Flags Appear
At the 303rd lap, the race saw another caution flag, but no lead change as Kyle maintained his grip.
The caution flag at Lap 303 set off a chain reaction. Three caution flags delayed the rest of the race.
Challengers continued to take their shot at wresting the lead from Kyle, but couldn't get it done through 400 laps. He turned back Kasey Kahne, Johnson and Kenseth—for the moment.
Kyle Loses the Handle
It seemed fuel conservation would become a major concern, but handling is what cost Kyle this race. In the final 50 laps, the No. 18 car just couldn't perform.
With only 30 laps to go, Kyle's hard driving forced Kahne into the wall. It appeared he had fended off his last serious challenge.
Kenseth stuck close enough to strike, but he needed an opening.
He ultimately passed Kyle with just 12 laps to go. It was all downhill for the latter at that point. Kenseth deserves credit for his perseverance, but owes some love to Kyle's car.
Kenseth passes Busch, takes the lead in the Husky Tools Toyota. #NASCAR 12 to go— Boris for JGR (@JoeGibbsRacing) May 12, 2013
Click the link to see the updated Sprint Cup standings at NASCAR.com.
Can Kenseth Use This as a Springboard?
Kyle is going to lose some sleep over this sixth-place finish. It seemed he would coast to a win, and it has to be frustrating when the car simply won't allow you to win.
Kenseth's third win of the season is a huge step toward making him a major player in the Sprint Cup standings for the rest of the season. We may look back at this race later in the year as the turning point for Kenseth.
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